THOUSAND OAKS — Friends are remembering sheriff's sergeant who was killed trying to stop a shooting rampage at a California bar as a "cop's cop" who didn't hesitate to run toward danger.
Ventura County sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus died of gunshot wounds he suffered trying to stop gunman Ian David Long, who authorities say opened fire in a packed country music bar, killing 12 before police believe he turned the gun on himself Wednesday night.
Colleagues of Helus describe him as a friend and an exceptional man and officer.
"The fact that he was the first in the door doesn't surprise me at all," sheriff's Sgt. Eric Buschow said Thursday. "He's just one of those guys that wouldn't hesitate in a situation."
Helus was married with a grown son and took up fly fishing a few years ago, Buschow said. He loved fishing in the Sierra Nevada mountains with his son.
"He was just a great guy, a gentle soul," Buschow said. "Patient. Calm no matter what. When you call 911, he's one of the guys you want showing up."
He said Helus was on the SWAT team for much of his career and worked in narcotics and investigations.
"If you were a victim of a crime, you want him investigating the case," Buschow said. "He would go to the ends of the Earth to find a suspect. Just an awesome investigator."
He said he has no doubt Helus' tactics at the scene "were sound when he went in."
"But unfortunately, you go into the unknown, you know there's shots being fired, obviously the suspect was in there and ready for him," he said.
Sheriff Geoff Dean, who choked back tears while talking about Helus, said his friend had been talking to his wife when the shooting call came in.
"(He) said to her, 'Hey I got to go handle a call. I love you. I'll talk to you later,'" Dean said.
Dean said he has no doubt Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer who also was the first to respond "saved lives by going in there and engaging with the suspect."
He called Helus a hero.
"He went in there to save people and paid the ultimate price," he said.